Gluten-free communion wafers

The Catholic church, especially in Ireland, has never been known for innovation but now even they are catching up! A February (2010) article in the Inishowen News (Donegal) reports that 'Buncrana coeliacs' prayers have been answered with the availability of gluten-free communion wafers at St Mary's Oratory. Buncrana priest, Fr Eddie McGuinness, said that he introduced the gluten-free host after being approached by a number of mass goers who said that they much preferred to receive the host instead of just the chalice.'

Given that Ireland has one of the highest rates of coeliac disease in the world, and sitll one of the highest rates of mass goers, this is definitely a step forward...

Following previous reports (in early 2008) that parishioners with coeliac disease had fallen ill after taking communion, the Church of England decided to offer gluten-free communion wafers, and thousands have already been supplied to clergy around the country.

The more expensive, square, gluten-free wafers are usually consecrated along with a supply of the standard round wafers, but offered only to those worshippers who are gluten sensitive.

The situation in the Roman Catholic church is different because, five years ago, Joseph Ratzinger, the German cardinal who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, decreed that all communion wafers must contain at least a tiny amount of gluten to be suitable for celebration of the Eucharist.

As a result, wafer manufacturers supplying Catholic churches have developed a product, which they claim has a gluten content so small that coeliacs can eat it without any ill effects.

Non-Catholic churches wishing to accommodate communicants who are allergic to ingredients other than gluten, are now able to do so by using wafers from Ener-G Foods, which are not only entirely gluten-free but are also free from wheat, dairy, egg, sugar, nuts and corn.

Ingredients in the Ener-G wafers are listed as: water, soylec flour (toasted soyflour, soy lecithin, soy oil and gum arabic), palm oil, sweet rice flour, methycellulose and Ener-G Baking Powder (sodium bicarbonate, sodium pyrophosphate, potato starch and monocalcium phosphate).

Ener-G wafers are available from General Dietary at 020 8336 2323; Address: P.O. Box 38, Kingston Upon Thames, KT2 7YP

As the Church begins to wake up to the needs of its allergic adherents, other changes are afoot in the aisles that should help to facilitate access for this group, in the same way that ramps have installed for those in wheelchairs and Braille bibles have for the blind.

Some churches – especially in the US – now ask worshippers to hold off on the perfume and aftershave, and some clergy are beginning to reduce the traditional heavy ceremonial scents, which can cause people with perfume allergies to sneeze, itch or even to experience trouble breathing.

Other churches are switching to one of the new hypo-allergenic forms of incense now on offer from ecclesiastical suppliers, and some have even gone so far as to eliminate the use of incense altogether.

Easter lilies are being avoided by some churches, as are fresh pine trees and boughs at Christmas, and non-fragrant or minimally fragrant flowers are becoming more popular.

Click here for more research on the management of coeliac disease


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